John McLean Allan,
Stand Easy
(self-produced, 2002)

John McLean Allan has really spread his bagpipes around. He's played with everyone from Korn and Charlotte Church to the Chieftains and Michael Flatley. His music has appeared on West Wing, Austin Powers II and other prominent movie and TV spots. Now, he's taking his act solo -- so to speak.

Allan is the unquestionable headliner on Stand Easy, on which he sings and plays Highland bagpipes, whistles, electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin and bass. The album has some traditional tunes and songs mixed with original material, and the sound is along the same lines as Seven Nations.

It's good stuff, and certainly 7N fans should check this out. But, while Allan has the instrumental chops, his vocals aren't quite as strong; fortunately, he relies on a number of guest singers to strengthen the package. George Cavanaugh is particularly strong on "Back Home in Derry," as are the trio of Diane Browne, Pamela Browne and Laura Browne Sorenson, who do excellent service on the Gaelic song "Siuthadaibh Bhlachaidh."

I hope Allan keeps his guest singers around for the next effort; I'd especially like to hear more from the women's trio. As for the music, anyone who likes their bagpipes mixed with some high-intensity Celtic rock should give this a spin.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 21 September 2002

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